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Rising to the Challenge

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 4 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what response she plans to make to the Audit Commission's recent report Rising to the Challenge. (253475)

The Government welcomed the Audit Commission's report when it was published last month. We supported the Commission's main findings and agreed there was more to be done to achieve efficiency savings on top of the £197.3 million the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) made between 2004 and 2008 against a target of £105 million.

The Department for Communities and Local Government will work with the FRS and other stakeholders to address the performance issues identified by the Commission. The Fire and Rescue National Framework, published last year, already seeks delivery of a challenging efficiency target and improved performance on equality and diversity by the FRS and we are working with the service to deliver these objectives.

Of the points which the Commission addressed specifically to central Government, we are already taking action on its recommendations that we should:

actively publicise those FRSs delivering all elements of modernisation, including efficiency, and encourage those with furthest to travel;

implement agreed proposals for developing operational guidance with the Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor and other stakeholders;

advocate the role the fire service can play in achieving community outcomes to other services;

publish data on efficiency savings by FRSs;

provide leadership and guidance on equality and diversity issues and the development of an organisational culture that embraces equality and diversity.

We are considering appropriate further action, including the Commission's recommendation that we should:

review the role of regional management boards and their place in the improvement infrastructure; then define and communicate its expectations of them and their potential value to FRAS.